The House of Representatives has decided to forgo a measure that would give ABS-CBN the provisional authority to operate until Oct. 31 and proceed with hearings on pending bills seeking a full 25-year renewal of its franchise.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made the announcement late Tuesday after consulting with his colleagues.
"Because of this divisiveness and after consulting with members of the House... I, together with the House of Representatives leadership decided to forgo the provisional franchise and immediately proceed with the hearings for the full 25-year renewal application of the ABS-CBN franchise," Cayetano said.
READ: House corrects franchise move, reverts to plenary
Last week, Cayetano and several House leaders filed House Bill 6732 that grants a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN for a "limited time" or until Oct. 31. The bill was approved on the same day it was filed by constituting Congress as a committee of the whole.
But several legislators cited legal problems with this approach as the Constitution requires a bill to be passed on three separate readings on as many days unless it is certified urgent by the President.
After withdrawing HB 6732 for a provisional authority, Cayetano tasked the House committee on legislative franchise chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez to immediately conduct hearings on the pending bills on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, and ensure that all stakeholders will be given the opportunity to air their sides.
"The hearings must be fair, impartial, comprehensive, and thorough," Cayetano said.
Cayetano, who had earlier delayed the hearings on the franchise renewal, warned supporters and critics of the giant network not to muddy the waters.
"To the extremists outside Congress who are either for or against ABS-CBN franchise renewal, don't poison the debate,” he said. “It will not help your cause nor enrich your position. Let love and reason carry our passions and argument, not hate and obsession."
Cayetano said Congress was forced to shift its attention to the ABS-CBN franchise renewal instead of the government efforts to combat the threat of Covid-19 for everybody's welfare.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took no action on the urgent plea of ABS-CBN Corp. for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from implementing its cease-and-desist order that forced the media giant to go off the air early this month.
READ: House to grant ABS-CBN temporary permit to operate
During the en banc session, the SC justices instead ordered the NTC, the House of Representatives and the Senate to file their respective comments on the media giant’s petition challenging the validity of the shut-down order issued by the commission earlier this month following the expiry of the ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise.
Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the Court gave the NTC, the House of Representatives, and the Senate 10 days from receipt of notice to comment on the petition.
While the television network named only the NTC as a respondent in its petition, the Court separately impleaded both Houses of Congress and also required them to file a comment, Hosaka said, in a text message.
The tribunal also gave the NTC five days to reply to the comments to be filed by Congress.
READ: NTC faces House contempt rap for failure to give network permit
“The (Court) actions were unanimously approved by the 14 justices of the Supreme Court,” Hosaka said.
ABS-CBN earlier prodded the Court to immediately issue a temporary restraining order to enjoin the NTC from implementing its cease and desist order, arguing that the CDO was issued without notice and hearing, to the detriment of its 11,000 workers.
The network said it is losing P30 million to P35 million, mainly in advertising revenues, every day it is off the air and told the court it may eventually have to let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and cut expenses if the "financial hemorrhage" is not stopped.
Sources in the judiciary disclosed that the Court resolved to hold off taking action on the urgent plea of the ABS-CBN for TRO until after they have received the comments to be filed by NTC and Congress.
Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday said the warning he made to the NTC against granting ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate did not constitute an act of meddling in the affairs of Congress, which has jurisdiction over the granting of legislative franchises.
Calida said that as the NTC’s statutory counsel, he was merely advising the commission that it would be encroaching on Congress’s legislative power if it issued a provisional authority to ABS-CBN after its franchise lapsed early this month.
ABS-CBN Corp. may consider retrenching workers by August if it fails to resume broadcasting soon, President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told a franchise hearing at the Senate Tuesday.
"We continue to lose a substantial amount of money every month and I'm afraid that if we cannot get back on air soon, by August, we may already have to consider beginning a retrenchment process," Katigbak told senators.
READ: Gatchalian leads ABS-CBN probe
The broadcaster earlier told employees that it "would not take away any jobs for three months" following its May 5 shutdown, given "the difficult economic situation" that the coronavirus pandemic spawned, he said.
"We felt it would be very, very painful to put our employees out on the street without them having an idea as to how they can continue earning a living and continue to feed their families," Katigbak said.
"But unfortunately, we cannot make that commitment open-ended because we are also limited by financial constraints," he added. With Rio N. Araja
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